Unable to resist the temptation any longer, I recently popped into Smoke, the new burger joint in town, located directly across the street from my place of employment. Then a few days later, I went back. Located in the former Jojutlas location (don’t worry, Jojutlas fans, they just moved across the street), Smoke has hit the food scene boasting creative smoked burgers, seasoned fries, hot dogs, and a host of other indulgent calorie cows, like shakes made with real ice cream. (They also have salads, but who really cares.) For Canton natives, Smoke is owned by the same restaurant group responsible for Old Carolina (yummy BBQ joint) and Baja Pizzafish (California themed Mex-Amer-Italian fusion place in North Canton).
We recently had the privilege to dine at The Greenhouse Tavern, Jonathon Sawyer’s green “gastropub” on East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland, focusing on sustainability and the farm-to-plate movement. It was downtown Cleveland restaurant week, so I decided it was about time to see what all the hype was about. Let’s get to the point, I’ve been talking about GHT since we had dinner there two months ago. And frankly the only reason I haven’t blogged sooner is that I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice. Chef Sawyer, if you’re reading this, please forgive me for butchering descriptions, it’s going to happen. All I can say is it was a lot to take in; plus, I think I slipped into a food-induced “high” of sorts about midway through the meal.
Not surprisingly, there are few things that excite me more than 1) the prospect of a new (original) restaurant, and 2) a great burger. Thanks to one of my readers (never thought I’d be saying that), I heard about a cool new burger bar in Akron. The Rail at Summit Mall is creating some buzz and has the potential to carve out a niche for itself in the Akron food scene.
There are few culinary creations more satisfying than a delicious bowl of lobster bisque. It is not often that one has a chance to indulge in lobster, so lobster bisque, while still a luxury, makes the the experience a little more frequently obtainable. I give full credit to my good friend Melissa for turning me onto it some years ago. We were at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla, California when Melissa got noticeably excited to see lobster bisque on the menu, (a dead give-away of a true foodie: spontaneous mood change at the mere thought of certain dishes). While it turned out that Sammy’s bisque fell slightly short for Melissa (she remains partial to Bon Vie in Columbus), all was not lost, because for me, a new obsession was born. Now, like Melissa, a smile comes to my face when I see lobster bisque on the menu. And that is one of the main reasons why Mulligan’s Pub in Canton is a must try.
Yet again I have to break my “no-chain” rule to talk about the newly-opened Five Guys Burgers and Fries in Canton at the Strip. As a dreamer, it’s my duty to get the word out to my local readers, who just might be contemplating a trip to Five Guys. All I can say is: Holy In-and-Out knock-off, Batman! Are you kidding me?! This obvious stealing of In-and-Out Burger’s look, feel, and menu is off-putting to say the least, but could the burgers be better?? I was skeptical.
A long-standing South Akron tradition is Ido on South Main Street. Sitting in an inconspicuous little building just down the block from Bridgestone America’s brand new (nearly complete) Akron Technical Center, Ido has been serving burgers in Firestone Park since 1943. Today, this neighborhood burger joint’s menu has expanded to salads, sandwiches, steaks, prime rib, a variety of “comfort food” favorites, and seafood.
A long-standing establishment serving All-American bar food classics, for breakfast, lunch and dinner is John’s Grille on Cleveland Avenue, not too far from downtown Canton. While the interior of the restaurant appears that it hasn’t been updated since circa 1970, it still has that certain something. When you walk in, you feel comfortable, people are smiling, welcoming, friendly, and you want to stay. Not to mention the fact that on a Friday night, it’s wall-to-wall crowded, both bar and restaurant side. The bar kid of reminds me of the set of cheers – dark, heavy finishes and big wood furniture. But still, everyone is happy to be there. And so am I.
I wouldn’t be a true Akronite (or Cantonian) if I didn’t take a moment to sing the praises of Swenson’s. If you grew up in Akron, have lived in Akron, or even visited a time or two, you know about Swenson’s. It’s legendary, almost as much for the nostalgia as for the burgers and shakes. Swenson’s has been around since the 1930’s, and in many ways it still feels like an “old school” drive-in, especially the West Market location in Akron (the original store). Growing up I have the fondest memories of many fine high school boys running up to the car to take our order, literally seconds after we pulled in. Luckily my dad is Swenson’s lover from way back (he’s been in Akron longer than Swenson’s), so he’s been taking me there for as long as I can remember. By the way, the boys still run to your car, but there are some girls now too (sigh).
So onto the food. First of all, it’s not hype, these really are the best (fast food/takeout) burgers. (In-and-Out, take note. You are forever second to Swenson’s, although I do love you, animal style.) I personally order a regular cheeseburger because I always must have a shake and a side too, but most people go for the famous Galley Boy. The Galley Boy has two beef patties, cheese, and two “special sauces.” My belief is that there are two main ways that these burgers pull apart from the competition. First: the meat. It has been a love-standing unconfirmed rumor that they put sugar in their beef patties. Is it true? I would tend to say yes – they are a bit sweet and taste unlike any other burger I’ve ever had. (Side note, my boyfriend bastes honey on his burgers as they’re finishing up on the grill, and that little bit of sweetness is killer.) The second way that these burgers shine rests in the bun. I do not know what they do to these wonderful buns, but they are flaky and crusty, but also soft, buttery, and perfect at holding all the flavors together and letting the ingredients “marinate”.
Apart from the burgers, the next big draw is in the milkshakes. Hands down, best milkshakes around. And they have just about any flavor you can imagine, including my two weaknesses: Chocolate peanut butter and banana. I thought about asking them if they could marry the two, still haven’t done that – it might just be too much to handle. My mom loves the malts because virtually nobody serves malts anymore. Too good, too good I tell you.
On the side they have an awesome assortment of fried deliciousness as well. In the picture above you see potato teezers, which are basically breaded and fried hash browns with cheese and jalapeno inside. YUM! Other favorites: fried zucchini, potato puffs, and onion rings. C’est magnifique! You’d be crazy not to check the website for one of the eight locations if you’re in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton area.